Three parties and one coalition representing the Kosovo Serb community have registered to participate in the upcoming early parliamentary elections in Kosovo. Four electoral lists of Serbian political entities have a total of 50 candidates. One of the three parties that submitted a list of 13 MP candidates is the Kosovo Serb party with the longest experience on the Kosovo political scene – the Independent Liberal Party (Samostalna Liberalna Stranka – SLS).
In addition to the president of this party, Slobodan Petrovic, the party’s electoral list includes Dijana Zivic, Boban Stankovic, Nebojsa Jakovljevic, Milena Zdravkovic, Sasa Savic, Sandra Djokic, Srdjan Jovanovic, Srdjan Maksimovic, Miroslav Stolic, Hristina Kostic, Radojica Mrdjinac and Dragan Trajkovic.
Apart from Srpska Lista, the SLS is the only Kosovo Serb parliamentary party to hold a parliamentary term in the last convocation of the Kosovo Assembly. The party’s leader won the parliamentary term, and since February this year, SLS official Dijana Zivic has been acting Minister of Agriculture. Zivic was appointed to the post after the dismissal of Srpska Lista representative, Nenad Rikalo.
„Even though we are experiencing great pressures and blackmail, we believe that we will achieve good results in the upcoming elections,“ the Independent Liberal Party told KoSSev.
The SLS program is aimed at „representing and defending the interests and values of the Serb community in Kosovo and therefore the general human, civilizational, democratic and civic values of other peoples in Kosovo“.
The party is committed to „developing the community by engaging all progressive forces, regardless of their nationality.“
When asked whether they would be prepared to be part of Albin Kurti’s government, the president of this party, Slobodan Petrovic stated that the SLS is running for seats that are guaranteed for the Serbian community and that they are absolutely not interested in who will be the next Prime Minister. Petrovic also said they would represent the Serbian community in the Kosovo Assembly and fight for their rights.
On pressures and threats
Petrovic also repeatedly warned of the „threats and pressures that his party members and their families are exposed to, but also all those who are not part of Srpska Lista“. He also claimed that there are “dozens of pieces of evidence” for his allegations, adding that the evidence was presented to institutions in Kosovo and Serbia.
He cited specific examples of cases when family members of their party members were reportedly dismissed from the Gracanica Health Center.
Petrovic also claimed that 13 doctors of the Hospital Center ‘Pristina’ in Gracanica signed a statement accusing the management of „continuous mobbing by abusing the office“.
According to him, this information was also forwarded to the Serbian Ministry of Health, and „it was clearly stated that their employment was not defined and that, by receiving contracts for three, six months, they are being held hostage.“
Petrovic confirmed in an interview for the Irish Times that they have also taken concrete steps before the Kosovo institutions.
“We have recordings of company bosses saying that if people don’t vote for Srpska Lista or don’t leave the SLS then they will be fired. We have given this evidence to the prosecutors’ office and we hope they will act on it,” he said.
The pressure on government employees is not a novelty for the Liberal Independent Party.
Petrovic recently recalled that the European Election Observation Mission has documented cases of intimidation during the 2017 elections, but that nothing has been resolved.
„We are afraid that this will be the case again. That the observers will only make a record of what happened and that nothing will be resolved – what happened, happened,” he said.
Although the SLS does not enjoy the support of official Belgrade – the same as other political entities not part of Srpska Lista, it did congratulate them on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of its founding three years ago.
“When you registered the Independent Liberal Party ten years ago, you stated that one of its program goals would be to connect the broken strands in Serbian-Albanian relations… Unfortunately, the process of Serbian-Albanian reconciliation is still felt today by members of both nations. The process of Serbian-Albanian reconciliation, of which you were, in a way, a messenger, has no alternative, or at least an alternative that any reasonable Serb or Albanian would like, and therefore you will find a sincere associate in promoting the co-operation policy of the two peoples in me,“ the head of the Kosovo Office, Marko Djuric said to Slobodan Petrovic in January 2016.
The Independent Liberal Party told KoSSev that it has 4,300 registered members. SLS’s pre-election campaign in Kosovo is conducted door-to-door, however, this party is not visible in the north of Kosovo.
As they explained, from 2013 onwards, ever since the murder of their candidate for mayor of North Mitrovica, Dimitrije Janicijevic, as a party, they have decided not to participate in local elections in northern Kosovo until the perpetrators are found.
SLS was founded on January 21, 2006 in Gracanica. They first participated in parliamentary elections in 2007 and have been a parliamentary party ever since.
Since that year, they have also participated in every local election process in Kosovo.
The SLS achieved its best election results in the 2010 parliamentary elections when it won 8 parliamentary seats.
In the 2009 local elections, the party’s candidates for mayor won in the municipalities of Gracanica (Bojan Stojanovic), Strpce (Bratislav Nikolic) and Klokot (Sasa Mirkovic). The same year, the SLS won the majority of the council seats in these municipalities.
In addition to parliamentary mandates, members of the Independent Liberal Party served as deputy prime minister of Kosovo Assembly, deputy prime minister, ministers, deputy ministers, advisers, mayors, councilors in local assemblies, presidents in local assemblies, and heads of the cabinet.
The president of this party, Slobodan Petrovic served as the Vice-President of the Assembly of Kosovo during two convocations (2007-2010, 2015-2017) and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Local Government (2011-2014).
In the last parliamentary elections in Kosovo in 2017, the SLS won 3,540 or 0.49 % of the votes.
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